Carpentry is a great profession no doubt. However, to be good at it, you need to know how to perform different types of cuts. You also need to know what the best tools for making various cuts are. Today, we are here to discuss how to cut curves in wood. Now, this is not going to be a step-by-step guide, but rather a guide on which tools are best to use for the task at hand.
So, let’s jump right in.
7 Best Ways to Cut Curves in Wood
As you are about to find out, there are many different tools that can be used to cut curves in wood, so let’s cover as many as possible.
1. By Hand
If you want to keep things old school, or you just don’t have any power tools on hand, you can use a variety of hand saws to cut curves into wood. Now, which hand saw you use depends on how large the curve is that you need to cut.
For instance, for fairly large and sweeping curves, you can use a large bow saw. For smaller and tighter curves, using a turning saw is recommended, as it is much smaller and narrower. For the very tightest of curves, you will want to use either a coping saw or a fret saw. Both fret saws and coping saws are very similar, and both have blades that are 1/8-inch in thickness or less, thus making them ideal for cutting small and tight curves into relatively thin wood stock.
For more information on this method, read my article about how to cut curves in wood by hand.
2. Using a Router
If you need to cut a perfect arch or a circle, then using a wood router will work very well. Routers are very versatile tools that can make deep holes, cut straight lines, and also cut a variety of curves and shapes into wood.
Now, if you need to cut a circle, most people would recommend creating a curve cutting or circle cutting jig first. However, unless you plan on recreating the same cut over and over again, wasting a lot of time making a jig is not worth it. Instead, all you have to do is to mark the desired curve on the wood with a pencil and attach a wood cutting bit that is designed for cutting both straight cuts and curves. Before you start making the cut, it may be a good idea to cut away excess material using a jigsaw.
Once you have the rough outline of the curves created, you can then use the router to make the final pass, getting as close to your marked lines as possible. The important thing when using a router to cut curves in wood is to ensure that you are using the correct cutting bit.
For more information on this method, read my article about how to cut a circle in wood with a router.
3. Using a Circular Saw
Another tool that can technically be used to cut curves in wood is a circular saw. Circular saws do of course have very large and circular blades. They are generally best used for making crosscuts and rip cuts. They definitely excel at cutting straight lines. However, if need be, they may also be able to cut large and sweeping curves.
Due to the large diameter of the blade, you won’t be able to use a circular saw to cut narrow and tight curves or shapes, though. The blade is just way too big for that. However, they can cut very large, sweeping, and gradual curves, albeit it’s not an overly easy task.
The circular saw is best used for cutting curves when large sheets of plywood are involved.
4. Using a Band Saw
The next type of saw that can be used to cut curves in wood is the band saw. A band saw is a large and stationary type of saw that features a thin blade mounted on a set of rollers or guides. This saw blade is fairly thin and flexible, and it forms one continuous loop. Therefore, it is best used to cut exterior curves.
However, it’s not the best choice for cutting interior curves where the exterior border of the piece being cut cannot be penetrated. In other words, for interior curves, you would have to thread the blade through the workpiece, and then make the cut, which is admittedly difficult.
How effective a band saw is at cutting curves will depend on the blade you have mounted on it. Generally speaking, the tighter the curve needs to be, the thinner the blade needs to be. Band saws have relatively small worktables or bases, so cutting curves with one is best done on relatively small stock that you can hold in your hands.
5. Using a Jigsaw
A jigsaw is a special type of reciprocating saw that features a blade that moves up and down at very high speeds. Jigsaws can handle fairly thick stock, which is a definite bonus, plus they are handheld and portable tools too. What is also convenient about the jigsaw in this regard is that it works well on large and flat surfaces, thus making it ideal for cutting curves on large sheets, such as on plywood.
If you need to quickly cut fairly large and sweeping curves, then a jigsaw is a prime choice. Now, keep in mind that jigsaw blades can bend, and if you apply too much pressure, the blade can veer off course.
Therefore, while a jigsaw can definitely be used to cut narrow and tight curves, you have to exercise caution and patience. Working slowly is important here. While a jigsaw can absolutely be used to cut very tight curves and angles, doing so requires lots of practice and skill.
For more information on this method, read my article about how to cut a circle in wood with a jigsaw.
6. Using a Reciprocating Saw
Although technically speaking a reciprocating saw is used for demolition purposes, if you are in a pinch and have no other tools on hand, you can use it to cut curves in wood. Reciprocating saws definitely aren’t very precise, so if you use one, you will likely need a smaller and finer saw to smooth out and refine the curve after having used a reciprocating saw.
You also definitely cannot use a reciprocating saw for tight and narrow curves. It just doesn’t have that kind of accuracy. However, if you need to create long and sweeping curves into sheets of wood, or you need to make rough curves on posts or joists, then a reciprocating saw can be used.
7. Using a Scroll Saw
If we were to describe a scroll saw, it is like a combination of three different saws. It features the stationary nature and the worktable of a band saw, with a blade motion that reciprocates like a jigsaw, but with the blade being very thin and narrow like on a handheld coping saw.
One thing to note here is that you definitely cannot use a scroll saw on very thick wood stock, nor can you use it on very large pieces. Anything you cut with a scroll saw, you need to be able to hold in your hands for mobility, and it needs to fit on that worktable.
That said, if you need to cut super narrow and tight curves or acute angles, then this tool is best. The small and thin shape of the blade allows for extreme accuracy in tight situations.
How to Cut Curves in Wood: 3 Tips & Tricks
Let’s just go over a few tips and tricks to help make life easier when cutting curves in wood with a variety of tools:
- You need the right blade: It is very important that you match the size of the blade to the size of the curve being cut. The tighter the curve, the narrower the blade needs to be.
- Support is key: Cutting curves is already hard enough as it is. To ensure that the curve is very smooth and accurate, make sure that the workpiece is well supported. If need be, you can always clamp it down.
- Blade sharpness matters: In order to cut smooth and accurate curves, it is vital that the blades are as sharp as possible. The finer the stock, the sharper the blade needs to be.
There you have it people, the seven best tools you can use to cut curves into wood. As long as you use the right tool, this should be a fairly easy process.